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HB 2154 is a sunset bill which would address many of the sunset advisory commission's recommendations and sets a new sunset review date.
HB 2154 would allow the State Office of Administrative Hearings to continue until the next sunset review in 2027. When the office and another state agency enters into a inter-agency contract for the biennium, the bill would allow for payments to be made by the agency to the office by way of a fixed amount at the start of each fiscal quarter for all services provided. Currently, the inter-agency contract is restricted to a method of a lump sum payment at the start of each fiscal year. If an agency has entered into a contact with SOAH, they would be required to submit to SOAH and the Legislative Budget Board information regarding the agency's anticipated usage of SOAH.
The bill would update the name of Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, reflecting the name change of that organization that occurred in the last several years. HB 2154 would remove requirements for SOAH to establish a natural resource conservation division, tax division, and utility division. All these would result in the appropriate conforming changes.
The bill changes eligibility requirements for an administrative law judge for tax hearings and amends the requirement that SOAH establish a tax division for tax hearings and makes appropriate conforming changes.
HB 2154 would require Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the chief administrative law judge of SOAH
to adopt and at least biennially update a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing
that SOAH has primary scheduling responsibility for an administrative license
revocation (ALR) hearing by September 1, 2016.
An SOAH administrative law judge would be authorized to remove a contested case that has defaulted under SOAH rules to dismiss the case from the SOAH docket and remand to referring agency for informal disposition.
HB 2154 would repeal the following sections of Government Code:
Section 2003.049(k) - "Hearings conducted for the commission by the office shall be held in hearing rooms provided by the commission. The commission shall also provide the utility division access to its computer systems, databases, and library resources."
2003.049 (l) - "The office shall charge the commission a fixed annual fee rather than an hourly rate for services rendered by the utility division to the commission. The amount of the fee may not be less than the amount appropriated to the commission in the General Appropriations Act for payment to the utility division to conduct commission hearings. The amount of the fee shall be based on the costs of conducting the hearings, the costs of travel expenses and telephone charges directly related to the hearings, docketing costs, and other applicable administrative costs of the office including the administrative costs of the utility division. The office and the commission shall negotiate the amount of the fixed fee biennially, subject to the approval of the governor, to coincide with the commission's legislative appropriations request."
Section 2003.101(c) - "If there are no cases in the tax division, and subject to the prior approval of the comptroller, an administrative law judge in the tax division may conduct hearings for other state agencies. Before conducting a hearing for another state agency under this subsection, the tax division must notify the comptroller in writing. The notification must describe the case that will be heard and the administrative law judge who will conduct the hearing and must estimate the amount of time that the judge will spend on the case. The office shall reimburse the comptroller at an appropriate hourly rate for the time spent by the administrative law judge on the case. The comptroller may revoke approval to conduct hearings for other state agencies under this subsection at any time."
Section 2003.102 - "SUNSET PROVISION. (a) The tax division is subject to Chapter 325 (Texas Sunset Act).
(b) The Sunset Advisory Commission shall evaluate the tax division and present to the 84th Legislature a report on that evaluation and the commission's recommendations in relation to the tax division.
(c) During the regular legislative session at which the commission presents its report and recommendations, the legislature by law may continue the tax division as provided by that chapter. If the tax division is not continued in existence as provided by that chapter, the tax division is abolished and this subchapter and Section 111.00455, Tax Code, expire on September 1 of the odd-numbered year in which the regular legislative session occurred."
Section 2003.106 - "COMPTROLLER'S PRIORITIES AND PUBLIC POLICY NEEDS. (a) The comptroller shall provide input to the office to assist the office regarding the comptroller's priorities and public policy needs.
(b) This section is intended to assist the office in providing efficient service under this subchapter and is not intended to impair the independence of the office in conducting a hearing under this subchapter."
Section 2003.107 - "TAX DIVISION REVIEW. On request of the comptroller, the office shall provide the comptroller the following regarding the tax division:
(1) a list of the administrative law judges, including temporary administrative law judges, who have heard cases in the division in the past year;
(2) the qualifications of the judges; and
(3) any other information considered necessary by the comptroller in evaluating the performance of the judges hearing cases in the tax division."